Business

Follow-Up File: FunRide has had a good ride so far

Name: Mark ShaffeR

Job: President and chief executive officer

Company: FunRide Inc.

What he said then: The Tribune previewed the July 2009 debut of FunRide, a San Luis Obispo car-sharing service. The company was founded by Mark Shaffer, whose “day job” is serving as executive director of Ride-On Transportation. The nonprofit operates buses and vans for commuters, seniors and others in San Luis Obispo County.

He modeled Fun-Ride, his private venture, on programs such as Zipcar and City CarShare.

“It’s teaching people you don’t have to own a vehicle to drive one,” Shaffer said.

With a $270,000 smallbusiness loan, Shaffer secured an office on Santa Barbara Street, a full-time operations manager and a few other employees to clean and fuel the cars.

FunRide charges subscribers $30 a year or $20 a month, plus hourly or daily fees to use its cars. Fuel and insurance costs are included. Parked in public locations, vehicles can be reserved online and picked up 24 hours a day.

What he says now: Fun-Ride Inc. has expanded to 15 vehicles, including one in Ventura and one in Santa Maria.

On Monday, Shaffer will meet with investors to discuss plans to open an office in Denver. He hopes to make that a hub for expansion into the central United States.

“We started with three cars and grew slowly,” he said. “In bringing car sharing to SLO, I realized I needed to develop something unique.”

Zipcar and City CarShare target urban areas. With high parking costs in large cities, their typical customers generally don’t own cars.

FunRide aims for small- and medium-sized markets such as San Luis Obispo where, Shaffer said, “everybody has a car.”

There are students, cyclists and others who don’t own cars who have joined. But the company primarily promotes itself as an alternative for business travel, for visitors or instead of a second family car.

Vehicles can be delivered to the train station for out-of-towners, Shaffer is quick to point out.

With 453 members, FunRide vehicles saw about 950 road hours in January. Use rates have gone up slightly to $6.50-$7.50 an hour or $65-$69 a day.

It maintains various models, including a hybrid sports car, a natural gas Honda Civic, a flex fuel Dodge Dakota pickup and a propane-propelled, 15-passenger van.

“We have the fully electric Nissan Leaf,” added Shaffer, whose mission is partly to reduce the use of gasoline.

“People are hesitant to try new things,” he said. “We’re letting people try all these cool, neat cars. Then maybe the next time they do buy, they’ll buy a hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicle.”

Have an idea for a follow-up? Each week, The Tribune checks in with a business it has reported on before. Send suggestions to: followupfile@thetribune news.com .

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